Reading a mountain of novels is what takes your Japanese from good to great. But finding material that has a nice balance between what interests you and what you can understand isn’t always the easiest endeavor. What’s worse is that it can become costly at an intermediate or advanced stage, when you want to try out a lot of novels to see what works best for you.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a site that you could read popular modern novels for free? The same novels that go on to then become hit manga, anime and maybe even movies?
小説家になろう (Shousetsuka Ni Narou) – Let’s Become Novelists!
Shousetsuka Ni Narou is a site that has been around since 2004, but I didn’t really find out about or make use of until recently. It’s a place where amateur novelists can submit their works for free to a Japanese audience. By doing this, they get readers and a possible path into getting published. It’s one of the largest amateur publishing sites in Japan, but more importantly, some of your favorite series may have come from here.
A few examples of early amateur novels that started here and later became big hits:
- Log Horizon
- Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Each link above brings you to the table of contents, where hundreds of chapters await your greedy reading eyes. I was very surprised that one of my favorite series, Overlord, was created here. And one of the most disturbingly good anime of recent years, Re:ZERO, also was born through an amateur novel.
Here’s what a typical table of contents looks like:
Why this site is awesome
You may want to just stop at the word free and feel set on using the site. But free doesn’t always mean good. Free can waste a lot of your precious time. But there are some other great reasons that may convince you further.
- Peruse through seemingly unlimited novels, without having to make any commitments. You can practice the 5-minute rule on steroids.
- Create an account, and vote on amateur series that you like. Help novelists get noticed and succeed.
- Some of the novelists ask for readers to help with corrections if you spot any typos or mistakes (there will be plenty). Help out a native Japanese novelist with your Japanese ability!
- When you watch new weekly episodes of an anime you love, it can fee like forever till the next episode. How about getting the equivalent of seeing dozens of episodes into the future.
- It’s quick and easy to begin and requires no set up (you don’t have to register an account if you don’t want to).
Some caveats to keep in mind
It’s not a completely perfect world though. Before making this a daily hunting ground, consider that:
- There are a lot of Isekai (trapped in another world) series. All of the series I mention in this post fall into this genre. And if you don’t like it, it can get annoying. There are other genres, but nothing compared to the library of Isekai.
- Series sometimes become too popular and are removed, like the novel “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”, which became an anime and a live action movie.
- I mentioned typos and mistakes as a plus above. It can also be a minus, causing distraction.
- The original works on these sites are often changed somewhat when picked up by publishers. Publishers may add or take away from the original, whether that is story, length, or details. This should be expected because the originals are much less polished.
Go enjoy some free light novels!
While I still buy most of my Japanese books on Amazon Kindle Japan, it’s nice to have another source to follow some new authors that have caught my interest. I got hooked on this site with two series:
1. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime – which is pretty popular now with the anime
2. I’m Only Level One But With my Unique Skill I’m Unstoppable (レベル１だけどユニークスキルで最強です) – a somewhat unknown series that has finally released its first manga and initial volumes of the story.
But now is your time to go out and increase your reading! Discover new gems no one has heard of, or get way ahead of the anime you love. And if you find something good, come back here and share it in the comments!
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.